One of our favourite pairs of Bluetooth earphones are the Etymotic ety8s, but even now they're priced well above £100. The JayBird JB-200s clock in at £79 and they should work with any Bluetooth-enabled audio device, including mobile phones, MP3 players and PCs. We decided to take the JayBirds for a test flight.
The JayBirds will go on sale next week.
These earpieces hook over the ear like many Bluetooth headsets -- it's a much more secure fit than the slightly unusually-designed ety8s, and we'd argue they're more than secure for use in the gym. Plus, the flexible plastic design should suit most ear 'designs'. If you wear glasses though, you'll have to endure their arms fighting over ear space with the JayBird earpieces.
But they're resistant to water and sweat, so at least when running in the rain, you shouldn't experience any moisture-related disasters. Be warned: they're not waterproof, and as such cannot be taken in the pool.
As snug as they are, they're not the most comfortable 'phones we've ever worn. Their silicon tips are reasonably unintrusive, but the enclosures themselves gave us noticeable fatigue within an hour. When taking them off we enjoyed that moment of relief akin to taking off hard-soled shoes after a day walking around a shopping centre. For the hour or two you spend jogging or lifting weights though, it's doubtful this will be any more an issue than wearing a helmet on a bicycle.
Bluetooth 2.0 can deliver pretty decent sound quality, and the JB-200s employ the A2DP technology to give you headphone-esque stereo performance. They can also be used as a typical hands-free setup with a mobile phone -- albeit through just the left earpiece -- and they play nice with MP3 players that offer built-in Bluetooth, such as Samsung's YP-P2.
If you want to use an iPod, JayBird Gear -- the manufacturer of JayBird -- offers a Bluetooth adaptor that plugs neatly into an iPod's docking adaptor. A similar accessory is available for adding Bluetooth functionality to any audio device with a 3.5mm socket. These cost £30 each, but neither come bundled with the JB-200 by default.
A useful feature is the ability to have the JB-200s connected to both an iPod, for instance, and your mobile phone (with buttons to control volume mounted on one earpiece). In our tests using an iPod classic, music would automatically be paused when a call came in on a Sony Ericsson W880i, and the call transferred to the left earpiece. Stereo would've been nice, JayBird.
When the call ends, the music resumes. This didn't work well with a Samsung YP-P2, however -- music continued to play during a call, and instead paused when the call ended.
Call quality when used as a headset was pretty good and volume goes high enough for use in the car. It's quite a bassy sound overall, much less tinny than the typical sound of a mobile phone's earpiece, with extra depth and bass.
As a music headset, we weren't that impressed. Sound quality is very average, with massive emphasis on the mid-range, making music sound muddy, lacking detail and brightness in the high end. We heard better-defined audio from Sennheiser's MX 560 earphones -- they can be picked up for little over £10 now. That's not a limitation of Bluetooth either, as we heard beautiful sound from Etymotic's A2DP-enabled ety8s.
But above all else, pairing is simple and pain-free, and it
worked well having both iPod -- though you can only control the iPod's
volume using the small buttons on the headset -- and mobile phone
connected together. It's even simpler to charge the 'phones simply
using the supplied cradle and USB, though there's no way of charging
directly into the earphones themselves, which is a shame.
The JayBird JB-200s are pleasant and affordable for Bluetooth use, if you have an MP3 player or A2DP-enabled mobile phone built in. They're also great for use in the gym or jogging down the Thames.
But if you're planning on using an iPod, as a result of needing to buy an additional adaptor, we'd opt for the Etymotic ety8s, which offer massively greater sound quality. That said, the JayBirds are good for the gym. The choice is yours!
Edited by Shannon Doubleday